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Alexander von Humboldt: „The great cavern of Guacharo, in South America“, in: ders., Sämtliche Schriften digital, herausgegeben von Oliver Lubrich und Thomas Nehrlich, Universität Bern 2021. URL: <> [abgerufen am 18.05.2024].

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Titel The great cavern of Guacharo, in South America
Jahr 1826
Ort London
in: Colin Campbell Clarke, The Hundred Wonders of the World, and of the Three Kingdoms of Nature, Described According to the Best and Latest Authorities, and Illustrated by Engravings, 19. Auflage, London: Sir Richard Phillips & Co. 1826, S. 117–120.
Sprache Englisch
Typografischer Befund Antiqua; Auszeichnung: Kursivierung; Fußnoten mit Asterisken.
Textnummer Druckausgabe: III.46
Dateiname: 1818-Cavern_of_Guacharo-07-neu
Seitenanzahl: 4
Zeichenanzahl: 9106

Weitere Fassungen
Cavern of Guacharo (New York City, New York, 1818, Englisch)
Account of the Great Cavern of the Guacharo (Edinburgh, 1820, Englisch)
[Cavern of Guacharo] (Frankfurt am Main, 1821, Deutsch)
The great cavern of Guacharo, in South America (Hartford, Connecticut, 1822, Englisch)
Cavern of the Guacharo (Edinburgh, 1824, Englisch)
The Great Cavern of Guacharo, in South America (New York City, New York, 1826, Englisch)
The great cavern of Guacharo, in South America (London, 1826, Englisch)
Die Felshöhle von Guacharo (Bamberg; Aschaffenburg, 1827, Deutsch)
The great cavern of Guacharo, in South America (Exeter, 1836, Englisch)
The great cavern of Guacharo in South America (London, 1845, Englisch)
Die Felshöhle von Guacharo (Leipzig, 1843, Deutsch)
Die Grotte von Caripe oder die Felshöhle von Guacharo (Berlin, 1851, Deutsch)
Der Guacharo (Bad Langensalza, 1852, Deutsch)
Die Höhle von Guacharo (Mainz, 1854, Deutsch)
Die Höhle von Guacharo (Stuttgart, 1856, Deutsch)
Die Höhle von Guacharo (Leipzig, 1858, Deutsch)

the great cavern of guacharo, in south america. *

In a country where the people love what is marvellous,a cavern that gives birth to a river, and is inhabited bythousands of nocturnal birds, the fat of which is employedin the Missions to dress food, is an everlasting object ofconversation and discussion. Scarcely has a stranger ar-rived at Cumana, when he is told of the stone of Arayafor the eyes; of the labourer of Arenas who suckled hischild; and of the Cavern of Guacharo, which is said tobe several leagues in length; till he is tired of hearing ofthem. The Cueva del Guacharo is pierced in the vertical pro-file of a rock. The entrance is toward the south, andforms a vault eighty feet broad, and seventy-two feethigh. The rock, that surmounts the grotto, is coveredwith trees of gigantic height. The mammee-tree, andthe genipa with large and shining leaves, raise theirbranches vertically toward the sky; while those of thecourbaril and the erythrina form, as they extend them-selves, a thick vault of verdure. Plants of the family ofpothos with succulent stems, oxalises, and orchideæ of asingular structure, rise in the driest clefts of the recks;while creeping plants, waving in the winds, are inter-woven in festoons before the opening of the cavern. Wedistinguished in these festoons a bignonia of a violet-blue,the purple dolichos, and for the first time that magnificentolandra, the orange flower of which has a fleshy tube morethan four inches long. The entrances of grottoes, likethe view of cascades, derive their principal charm fromthe situation, more or less majestic, in which they areplaced, and which in some sort determines the characterof the landscape. What a contrast between the Cueva ofCaripe, and those caverns of the North crowned withoaks and gloomy larch-trees! But this luxury of vegetation embellishes not only theoutside of the vault, it appears even in the vestibule of thegrotto. We saw with astonishment plantain-leaved heli-conias eighteen feet high, the praga palm-tree, and ar-borescent arums, follow the banks of the river even to
* Abridged from the Personal Narrative of Humboldt, vol. iii.
|118|those subterranean places. The vegetation continues inthe cave of Caripe, as in those deep crevices of the Andes,half excluded from the light of day; and does not dis-appear, till, advancing in the interior, we reach thirty orforty paces from the entrance. We measured the way bymeans of a cord: and we went on about four hundred andthirty feet, without being obliged to light our torches.
Day-light penetrates into this region, because thegrotto forms but one single channel, which keeps thesame direction from south-east to north-west. Where thelight begins to fail, we heard from afar the hoarse soundsof the nocturnal birds, sounds which the natives thinkbelong exclusively to those subterraneous places. Theguacharo is of the size of our fowls, has the mouth of thegoatsuckers and procnias, and the port of those vulture,the crooked beak of which is surrounded with stiff silkyhairs. It forms a new genus, very different from thegoatsucker by the force of its voice, by the considerablestrength of its beak, containing a double tooth, by itsfeet without the membranes that unite the anterior pha-lanxes of the claws. In its manners it has analogies bothwith the goatsuckers and the alpine crow. The plumageof the guacharo is of a dark bluish-grey, mixed with smallstreaks and specks of black. It is difficult to form anidea of the horrible noise occasioned by thousands ofthese birds in the dark part of the cavern, and which canonly be compared to the croaking of our crows, which,in the pine forests of the north, live in society, and con-struct their nests upon trees, the tops of which toucheach other. The shrill and piercing cries of the guacha-roes strike upon the vaults of the rocks, and are repeatedby the echo in the depth of the cavern. The Indiansshewed us the nests of these birds, by fixing torches tothe end of a long pole. These nests were fifty or sixtyfeet high above our heads, in holes in the shape of fun-nels, with which the roof of the grotto is pierced like asieve. The noise increased as we advanced, and the birdswere affrighted by the light of the orches of copal.When this noise ceased around us, we heard at a distancethe plaintive cries of the birds roosting in other ramifi-cations of the cavern. It seemed as if these bands an-swered each other alternately. |119| The Indians enter into the Cueva del Guacharo oncea-year, near midsummer, armed with poles, by means ofwhich they destroy the greater part of the nests. At thisseason several thousands of birds are killed; and the oldones, to defend their brood, hover around the heads ofthe savage Indians, uttering terrible cries, which wouldappal any heart but that of man in an untutored state. We followed, as we continued our progress through thecavern, the banks of the small river which issued from it,and is from twenty-eight to thirty feet wide. We walkedon the banks, as far as the hills formed of calcareous in-crustations permitted us. When the torrent winds amongvery high masses of stalactites, we were often obliged todescend into its bed, which is only two feet in depth.We learnt, with surprise, that this subterraneous rivuletis the origin of the river Caripe, which, at a few leaguesdistance, after having joined the small river of SantaMaria, is navigable for canoes. It enters into the riverAreo under the name of Canno de Terezen. We foundon the banks of the subterraneous rivulet a great quantityof palm-tree wood, the remains of trunks, on which theIndians climb to reach the nests hanging to the roofs ofthe cavern. The rings, formed by the vestiges of the oldfootstalks of the leaves, furnish as it were the footsteps ofa ladder perpendicularly placed. The Grotto of Caripe preserves the same direction, thesame breadth, and its primitive height of sixty or seventyfeet, to the distance of 1458 feet, accurately measured.I have never seen a cavern in either continent, of so uni-form and regular a construction. We had great difficultyin persuading the Indians to pass beyond the outer partof the grotto, the only part which they annually visit tocollect the fat. The whole authority of los padres wasnecessary, to induce them to advance as far as the spotwhere the soil rises abruptly at an inclination of sixty de-grees, and where the torrent forms a small subterraneouscascade.* The natives connect mystic ideas with thiscave, inhabited by nocturnal birds; they believe, that the
* We find this phenomenon of a subterranean cascade, but onmuch large scale, in England, at Yordas Cave, near Kingsdale, inYorkshire.
|120|souls of their ancestors sojourn in the deep recesses of thecavern. “Man,” say they, “should avoid places whichare enlightened neither by the Sun nor by the Moon.To go and join the guacharoes, is to rejoin their fathers,is to die. The magicians and the poisoners perform theirnocturnal tricks at the entrance of the cavern, to conjurethe chief of the evil spirits.
At the point where the river forms the subterraneouscascade, a hill covered with vegetation, which is oppositethe opening of the grotto, presents itself in a very pic-turesque manner. It appears at the extremity of a straightpassage, 240 toises in length. The stalactites, which de-scend from the vault, and which resemble columns sus-pended in the air, display themselves on a back-groundof verdure. The opening of the cavern appeared singu-larly contracted, when we saw it about the middle of theday, illumined by the vivid light reflected at once fromthe sky, the plants, and the rocks. The distant light ofday formed somewhat of magical contrast with the dark-ness that surrounded us in those vast caverns. Weclimbed, not without some difficulty, the small hill, whencethe subterraneous rivulet descends. We saw that thegrotto was perceptibly contracted, retaining only fortyfeet in height; and that it continued stretching to thenorth-east, without deviating from its primitive direction,which is parallel to that of the great valley of Caripe. The missionaries, with all their authority, could notprevail on the Indians to penetrate farther into the ca-vern. As the vault grew lower, the cries of the guacha-roes became more shrill. We were obliged to yield to thepusillanimity of our guides, and trace back our steps. Wefollowed the course of the torrent to go out of the cavern.Before our eyes were dazzled with the light of day, wesaw, without the grotto, the water of the river sparklingamid the foliage of the trees that concealed it. It was likea picture placed in the distance, and to which the mouthof the cavern served as a frame. Having at length reachedthe entrance, and seated ourselves on the bank of the ri-vulet, we rested after our fatigues. We were glad to bebeyond the hoarse cries of the birds, and to leave a placewhere darkness does not offer even the charm of silenceand tranquillity.